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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008
On a Three Hour Tour

Reading that El Gringo has taken the Carnival Elation cruise down along the Baja brings up memories of my cruise from last year… which just happened to be on the Elation down along the Baja.

Carnival advertises itself as the “fun” cruise line; the current slogan is “Fun for all. All for Fun.” In fact the quest for “fun” permeates everything that happens on board: songs and skits during dinner, bath towels folded up as various animals, the provision of a video arcade with games that date back from the time when Tom Foley was House Speaker. You get the picture. In fact Carnival makes sure that the fun-meter is always turned up to 11; I’m surprised they didn’t carry out regular mockings of sour-pusses on the Lido Deck just to encourage the others.

Leading the fun patrol was our cruise director, Stewart, who would regularly get on the PA system and inform us in his Aussie accent of the next fabulous, fun event for we which we had to get ready. Fun apparently began the moment the life boat drill was over when waiters started to cruise the decks with trays full of cocktails which of course were available at $6.75. In fact the ship was so attuned to fun that if you wanted soda, you had to pay for that as well. Free food 24/7 but if you wanted some carbonated sugar water they were going to pop you.

Our cruise had two full days at sea and two days of shore excursions. The trick to enjoying the shore excursions is to ignore everything the ship’s crew tells you. My wife and I attended the pre-excursion orientation for Cabo led by none other than Mr. Stewart. Maybe he got an employee discount on booze or soda because the man always seemed stoked to the hilt and that morning he seemed especially on as he told of all the “fabulous” finds and deals that were available for in Cabo, in fact I lost count after his 15th use of the word “fabulous.” Needless to say once on the beach in Cabo, we found nothing “fabulous” about Stewart’s recommendations

Nope the trick to enjoying the shore excursions is to go blind into the city and cut your own deals with the locals, not only is it cheaper but is so tinged with the absurd that it proves a far better time than anything than the Carnival people could engender. In Ensenada, we ended up in a tour van with a young couple from Gilbert who were on their honeymoon, luckily the husband had done his mission somewhere in South America and therefore spoke Spanish. Instead of making a simple trip to see the famous “Blowhole” which isn’t very fabulous at low tide, we managed to negotiate a deal with the driver to go horseback riding on a “white sandy beach.” The beach had sand that might have been white at one time and the horses might not have been decrepit beasts for their entire lives; actually the horses had plenty of life in them because the father and son time leading the ride would make all of them run as fast as possible just to see if they could unseat the Americans. Believe me this was a lot more fun than it sounds.

Our cruise occurred over New Year’s so we celebrated New Year’s on board. In typical Stewart fashion, the good man informed us for days ahead of time that we had barely enough time to reserve our own champagne from the ship’s very limited stocks. What we found out that night was that free champagne abounded and believe me a good time was had by all. Having to buy your own champagne ranked right up there with the need to buy Tanzanite

I sound too harsh. I really did enjoy the cruise, though when it came time to disembark I was glad I didn’t have to spend one moment longer on that ship. It really does make for a great trip for kids, I mean nothing lights up a kid’s eyes more than the realization that they have 24/7 access to the free ice cream machine.